OuroBoros Part Two - The Initiation

Written in response to: Start your story with an unusual sound being heard.... view prompt

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Fantasy Science Fiction Friendship

Author's Note: The creative process for this one was very messy. First, I came up with the idea for a later segment, but then had to think of something to link the first story and that one together, but then that bridge got split in two. I didn't think it was going to take such a long time to conceive and then write out.

The rain left Ophi feeling sopping wet. With the constant fire crackling inside Ophi’s bulk, he felt like a lava cake covered in ice cream, but much less sweet. It didn’t help that Ophi’s energy had started to drop. He was hungry.

Ophi lifted his head to find a landmark. A sea of papery grass all around, blurred further with the gray sky by the blinding rain. The only thing that stood out was the hill up ahead. Something about the hill caused Ophi to puff out a cloud in dread.

Ophi collapsed on the ground and pushed himself in the hill’s general direction. The rain numbed Ophi’s head, washing everything but the hill out of his mind.

Half of that numbness vanished once Ophi caught sight of ashy, crumbly bark. This wasn’t a hill, this was a forest. Ophi stopped and reared himself up, with eyes wide open for the first time in months. They looked like pine trees, with sickly sticks for trunks and what Ophi guessed was coal-black moss lying limply on their branches. Everything about these new connectrees churned Ophi’s stomach.

An ice cold wind blew down on Ophi. The lumbering serpent made a beeline for the woods. Instantly, a branch shattered on Ophi’s back and he just slid through the mud and brambles like there was no tomorrow. Everywhere he went, there were only trees and bushes. There wasn’t anything in there, not even an ad-bird startled out of one of the bushes he crushed. Realizing this, Ophi stopped and slowly turned one way and another. The trees were no longer as close together as he remembered. In this sea of inky bushes, there stuck out black pine trees with white, chalky marks all over their bark. All that against a dull white sky.

The weird serpent thrashed about. He could see no landmark, no difference in the monochrome savanna around him.

Ophi stopped, and took a moment to fight back the tears. “No. N-no! Just stop it. You don’t have a home to miss anymore.”

Ophi then crept through the new environment. He looked from tree to tree. There were vines with silvery fruits, but no other signs of life. There didn’t seem to be anything breaking the sea of shrubbery. No ponds, no boulders, nothing except the disgusting pine trees. Ophi kept going. The mud under him became drier and drier. There was no fog in this place, but the silence weighing down on Ophi made up for it. At one point, Ophi’s glazed eyes caught notice of something broad sticking out of the ground.

Ophi felt a spark of energy and turned to the left. The pine tree in front of it couldn’t even hide it. It looked something like a house-sized volcano, made of huge chunks of papery bark. Ophi eagerly slid towards it and realized these bark chunks were stone. The chimerical snake stuck his head in the one opening in the walls. Inside was a cave gently sloping down to something underground.

The sand lining the place looked so familiar. Ophi squeezed his way through. His mane of long quills clinked and the rest of the body made scrapes. Ophi kept going down and reached a crossroads of tunnels. The main chamber had especially soft-looking sand. Ophi curled up in this space and collapsed like a worn out tent. “I think… I think I’ll stay here.”

The next morning, the chimerical snake opened his eyes and felt confused seeing a tunnel trickling silver light in front of him. He took the time to inspect his surroundings and felt a jolt of despair overcoming him once he remembered everything.

Ophi’s stomach offered a rebuttal. Ophi sighed and rattled the huge quills on his neck and pushed himself outside. 

The weird plain around Ophi was as silent as yesterday, with some rumbling coming from the horizon. Sure, Ophi could see the distant forest lining the horizon facing his new house, but the savanna around him didn’t seem to have any landmarks. 

Then, Ophi lifted his head. He turned to his left, slithered further from his roofed burrow, and grabbed a bush with his teeth. Now what if, He uprooted the bush. I just make, He moved forward and uprooted another. A path for myself? I won’t get lost that way. And Ophi kept picking up the salty bushes while he headed out. 

The sky above grew bright white. Ophi’s neck started to ache, and he stopped. The icy hunger clawing at his gut was hard enough. Several yards away was an open forest of trees with white bark. Now, Ophi needed to investigate.

The birch trees were as small as the pine trees, but they were slim and smooth. The dragon couldn’t see the ad-birds in the paperwhite leaves, but he could hear the soft twittering they made. Ophi slithered further along. He glanced at the trunk of a birch tree that was particularly close to his face and realized the marks in the bark were red.

Grass crunched under tiny feet. Ophi turned and scanned the trees. There, out from behind a house-sized boulder, waltzed a coffin with scarlet deer legs. It stopped and turned to face Ophi. The face framed by its shell was just as red.

Ophi grimaced. He swallowed back his burning vomit. He lunged and heard the animal’s screams, only to ram into the chalky rock. Out of his left eye, he saw the red creature scampering away. Ophi pulled himself off the boulder and slithered after the poor image. 

The image bleated, “Help! Help! Help!”

Ophi felt like he was bounding, until he finally clamped his jaws shut on… Wood! Ophi saw the monster run off into a grove. Ophi then peeled his throbbing face off the huge connectree stump. He must have landed wrong.

“Help! Somebody!” The voice rattled off again. It wasn’t the image.

Ophi slid past the huge tree stump and continued down the shady grove. He could hear screaming coming from deep within this forest. At its loudest, it was coming from a crater ending the path. With all the reddish bushes crammed into it, Ophi could barely see the clearing at the center of it. Rearing up, he could see several white figures grappling with two dark figures. One of them appears to be biting its victim.

With no plan in mind, Ophi catapulted himself off the edge, crushing several bushes under him. He kept going, noting that one of the dark figures was much smaller than its companion. The pressure in his skin built up. Ophi decided to risk it and let the spikes fly out.

The pale creatures squeaked. Ophi could see that some dropped their tails. 

But then both gangs snarled and their victims screamed even louder.

And so with no plan in mind, Ophi burst out of the bushes, going straight for the bigger group, knocking half of them off their feet and pushing against his pores. Spikes flew out of Ophi’s pores and he heard many raspy screams. Ophi circled over to the smaller group, hissing as he charged. Then a few sharp points hit Ophi’s side and something bright red flashed in Ophi’s eyes and he swerved to avoid it. And another. And another.

Ophi stopped, roared and thrashed about. The users were now sending images into his head. Those points weren’t spears but stingers! Between the flashing of images, Ophi saw the ghoulish users dragging their two victims.

Ophi forced himself to focus on their general direction. More and more strange, wet things landed on Ophi, invading his mind with gory imagery. Ophi yelled and pressed on anyway until he fully collided with something hard. The shock was too much and the images faded into black.

When Ophi’s consciousness started coming back, he heard a young man’s voice say, “Come on, Aquila. Pull like you mean it!”

Then something wet suctioned off Ophi’s ear and made a meaty ripping sound. What squiggling things that edged Ophi’s vision disappeared. He still felt dizzy, though.

Something rough tapped against Ophi’s side. The man spoke again. “Hey! You alright, dude?”

Ophi peeled his face off the carved boulder. He felt something light slapping his back, his mane, his pores. The draconic being looked up and realized it was raining tar. “Ugh.”

Ophi turned to the left, and one of the dark users held a battered white thing in his tentacles. “Guess your racket drove them off. Thanks for saving us back there.”

The stranger’s smaller companion jumped behind her friend. “Don’t just go thanking random abominations, Semar! He could be the next to try and kill us!”

The stranger turned to his friend, now showing some rather sharp teeth. “Aquila, please!” Back to Ophi, Semar finally showed his restful face, framed by tar-clogged leaves. “Sorry about that. We’ve been on the run for many months now.”

Ophi tilted his head, ignoring the pit in his stomach. “Is that why those… nasties were attacking you?” 

Semar’s eyes stayed half closed, but he bowed his head. “I guess. They must have thought we were easy prey. Like… nobodies. They definitely weren’t expecting anybody to come to our rescue, much less you.”

Ophi remembered something, and it began to weigh on his heart. “I’m afraid I’m in the same position as you. I was driven out of my home by my own friends.”

Semar fell silent. Aquila stepped out from behind him, her head looking very much like a pallid hibiscus. The tar rain fell harder, now releasing a synthetic stench, and sticking Ophi’s mane together. “I was out here finding food but now I just want to return to my new burrow. Do you guys want to come with me?”

Semar looked up. His stained, bushy hair almost blended in with the ever darkening sky. “I dunno if-”

“Yes!” Aquila’s purple-edged eyes sharpened. She leapt onto Ophi’s mane, where she cried, “Onward!”

Semar gave a quizzical look to Ophi.

Ophi knew as to why. He blinked twice and said, “It’s fine. I can take you there.”

Semar just sighed, shrugged his shoulders, and lumbered onto the snake. Ophi winced at his tugging quills and scanned the area. Crater walls, crushed bushes, tall redwoods! Ophi then pushed towards the wake of crushed branches he left. With the redwood-like connectrees having only one path, that part was a no-brainer. The birch-and-boulder area was a little hard to read, however. It took Ophi a good minute to spot any tracks he left behind, and as he slithered past the boulders in this more open forest, he saw that shelled creature out of the corner of his eye.

Semar spotted it too. “Hey Aquila. Think we can bag that one?”

The shelled monster hissed and bounded deeper into the birch trees.

Ophi’s brow furrowed in annoyance. His nose throbbed just thinking about it. “Just don’t bother with that.”

At the edge of the birch forest, Ophi scanned the savannah bushes for his clearing. He spotted a black mass to his right, and it was the exposed soil, now covered with the foul rain water. Ophi adjusted his head and carefully slid into the clearing. He started slipping down the path. Ophi didn’t mind as the whole place was getting too dark for comfort. 

Ophi puffed a sigh of relief at the sight of the “tent” framing his burrow. “This is it. This is what I’ve found.”

Ophi felt something large slide down some of his quills. It was Semar. “Aquila?”

Aquila’s voice rapped against Ophi’s ear. “I know, I know. I’m coming.” And the smaller creature fell with a splat. 

The two creatures stumbled in front of Ophi, huddled against one another. 

Semar’s voice came out strained. “It looks awfully dark in there. Any lighting?”

Ophi pulled his lip to the side of his face. He didn’t think about the lighting inside. “Well, I do glow a bit. Do you want me to go first?”

Neither of them said anything. Until Semar shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”

Ophi carefully maneuvered around the smaller users and down into the sandy tunnel. The tiny grains gritted against his tar-clogged pores. Ophi winced and lined his body up with the wall of the main chamber, even shuffling himself to expose more of his yellow, tar-stained underbelly. 

Like he planned, Ophi could see a phosphorescent glow tinting the dove gray sand. “Come down. I’m lighting the floor.”

Ophi’s guests made haste coming down the rather steep tunnel. Ophi felt a twinge seeing Aquila fall over on Semar, and so Ophi smiled and shifted back to reveal a chamber next to the entrance tunnel.

Semar and little Aquila behind him crawled into the chamber there. Ophi noticed what looked like a pile of sand inside. Once two figures disappeared in the sand, Ophi curled himself up, his wet, shivering self. Oh well, maybe tomorrow he could wash himself off.

November 08, 2021 04:18

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